Today is the Feast Day of Pope St. Sylvester, who baptized the Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century. Famously portrayed by Maso di Banco in a chapel painted for the Bardi di Vernio family in Santa Croce, Florence, Sylvester also performed numerous miracles, including reviving some men killed by a dragon and resuscitating a bull that had been killed by scribes.
Maso’s scene with the dragon is his best known painting. Two Romans had died in the Forum because of the beast’s terrible breath – a symbol of religious ignorance. Sylvester closed the animal’s throat so he could harm no more and brought the deceased back to life. Maso is often praised for his rendering of the forum, which is not accurate for Sylvester’s day but reflects its ruined medieval state.